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Seminary campus to become destination hotel

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The new owner of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School campus plans to develop it into a destination hotel and conference center and build a new building for the seminary at the corner of Highland Avenue and South Goodman Street.

The school's board of trustees made the decision to sell the property years ago, and it spent a long time looking for a buyer, receiving some "god awful" proposals in the process, said the Rev. Marvin McMickle, president of the seminary, during a press conference this morning. But it liked Top Capital of New York's ideas for the property and decided to sell it to the firm, McMickle said.

Top Capital says its highest priority is preserving and protecting the buildings. They were a key reason the company was interested in the divinity school campus in the first place, said Jim Payne, Top Capital's director of marketing. They expect to retain all of them and to make, at most, minimal changes to the exterior, he said.

The beautify of the property, in fact, is "what we bought," Payne said.

The firm plans to invest $36 million to renovate the 90-year-old campus. It hasn't released detailed plans, but its concept is to develop a hotel and conference center that's a unique attraction, and that will draw events such as weddings and business conferences. The campus already has a chapel and ballroom for weddings, and has lecture and classroom space that could be valuable for conferences.

Top Capital developed the Chateau at Heritage Square, an independent and assisted-living community for seniors located just outside of Brockport. It's also working on a luxury hotel, condo, and senior living complex in Saratoga Springs.

Before Top Capital starts the renovations, however, it will construct a new 18,000-square-foot building at the corner of Highland Avenue and South Goodman Street. Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School will take up much of the building, which could also include some apartments for its students.

McMickle said the deal will allow divinity school officials to focus its efforts on education without having to worry about maintaining an aging campus. He said he expects that the school will be able to make its move by fall 2018, he said.

"We're delighted that we're staying on the hill," McMickle said.

Mayor Lovely Warren said she was excited to learn that Top Capital plans to preserve the campus's architecture. She also thanked the school and developer for bringing neighborhood groups into discussions around the sale.

Jeff Adair, Monroe County's chief economic development officer, offered the county's help with the project.

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